Tag Archives: customer service

How We Reinvented NYC.gov

8 lessons from creating a government website that doesn’t feel like one

Mayor Mike Bloomberg recently unveiled the newly relaunched nyc.gov, the official website for the biggest city in the country. This was the site’s first redesign in a decade, and the new user experience is unlike any other government website out there. This was our goal.

Overhauling the website wasn’t simple: it has over one million pages, integrates with more than a dozen applications, and serves 35 million visitors a year. We learned an enormous amount in the process. And because I’ve discovered from conversations with digital leaders in other cities and across industries — media, finance, fashion — that our challenges were not unique, we’d like to share a few of the most important lessons that we learned.

  1. Your user is the center of the universe. Large organizations have a tendency to create websites in their own image. Over time, a digital platform can begin to reflect the company org chart or a list of product groups. But this doesn’t necessarily translate into your ideal user experience — as jargon and acronyms can replace common search terms, or information architecture becomes less intuitive. It is critical at the outset of any overhaul that everyone at the table agrees that the user comes first. It will also make your job much easier, as establishing this approach puts everyone on the same page for decision-making down the line.
  2. In God we trust, everyone else bring data. This is a favorite expression of Mayor Bloomberg, a deeply data-driven leader. Designing any digital experience can become an emotional debate, especially when you have lots of smart stakeholders at the table and a diverse and varied user base. Data is a great tonic to subjective conversations. For the City of New York, traffic metrics and search analytics informed our information architecture, navigation, terminology, and content placement on the homepage. For evidence, check out the “Today” bar that displays Alternate Side Parking, schools and garbage collection status on NYC.gov. This information is the top driver of traffic to our website, so now it’s front and center, and reducing call volume and cost in our customer service operation. And we’ve embraced data post-launch to measure success and constantly analyze user response.
  3. Make mobile your first consideration. Another insight gleaned from our data is that 25% of traffic to NYC.gov comes from mobile devices, and that number is constantly increasing. Regardless of what you are building on the web, mobile will be key to the future of your growth. For NYC.gov, this metric led us to create the first fully responsive government website in the US. Whether you are on a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer, you’ll find a great experience when you access NYC.gov. It’s harder to build this way up front, but it’s the right investment if you’re serious about delivering a consistent, user-centric experience. And long term it’s also smarter, as we will maintain a single code base that responds flexibly to how our users access NYC.gov.
  4. Focus on service. For years, nyc.gov and 311 Online, the City’s customer service platform, were considered separate products. But when we looked at the data, we realized that most people were going to NYC.gov in search of 311 info and services. This led us to a no-brainer: deeply integrating 311 customer service tools for the first time on the NYC.gov. Now users can start a 311 request right from the homepage with the accordion-style 311 Booker, something almost no other city enables. Our focus on service also led to the launch of My Neighborhood, a tool that lets users enter an address and instantly find police precinct, school district, library, garbage collection schedule and community board info.
  5. Don’t skimp on search. On NYC.gov, we found that search is the primary way that our users navigate the website. To overhaul internal search, we leveraged Google’s search technology and worked with experts to optimize it for our users. Now search results are more closely in line with what our users want, and we are constantly tweaking our search to improve the experience.
  6. Every page is your homepage. We found that most users arrive on City government content pages primarily from search engines like Google, not through our homepage NYC.gov. With this in mind, we created a universal navigation that assumes every page is your first entry to NYC.gov. For example, the footer displays a changing list of top 311 requests, so that if you haven’t found what you’re looking for by the time you reach the bottom of the page, the site might guess the reason for your visit. And if you’re still confused, a second search field is waiting for you.
  7. Show your users what’s in it for them. We transformed our storytelling process for the new NYC.gov, moving away from traditional press releases and embracing the content formats that work best online. On our homepage, this means larger visuals, live video streaming, shortened summaries, bigger fonts and a call-to-action for every story that helps users understand how an announcement can add value to their life. To achieve this, we appointed our first-ever NYC.gov Editor in Chief, Amanda Konstam, who leads content strategy in partnership with the Press Office, agencies, and our Digital Communications Director Ivy Li.
  8. Get fresh perspectives from the smartest people you can find. To kick off the process of overhauling NYC.gov, we hosted a hackathon — the first of any city government. To attract talented developers and designers, we partnered with tech and creative educational institution General Assembly. After 48 hours, the 12 prototypes created by over 100 participants challenged our conventions and helped us to visualize NYC.gov anew as a platform for customer service.Learning from the hackathon, we realized that it was critical to engage design experts with experience and independent perspectives to fully overhaul the website, and through a competitive process selected Brooklyn-based HUGE to lead the charge. The result is a government website that doesn’t look or act like one, which we hope helps to set a new standard for digital civic engagement.

Our work has just begun. In the next phases of NYC.gov you’ll see the launch of agency websites in a new, fully responsive template, and a toolkit that helps New Yorkers get more out of their City. For now, we are grateful to the hundreds of individuals who contributed in ways small and big to the overhaul of NYC.gov, and remain committed to making sure it serves the residents of the greatest city on earth.

Written by

Chief Digital Officer for the City of New York. Founder of GroundReport. Committed to tech in the public service.

5 Steps for Building a World Class Contact Center in 2014 – Webinar Q&A

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business hand writing question about 2014 on graphDuring our recent Genesys Best Practices webinar on 5 Steps for Building a World-Class Contact Center in 2014 we discussed the new customer experience model companies can adopt to address the changes in customer behavior and expectations coming in 2014. We also discussed the key capabilities to look for in a modern contact center solution to help you get there.

If you have yet to view the webinar, click the link above. Below is a recap of the question and answer session, providing some additional insight beyond what’s included in the initial webinar.

Does the concept of customer journey apply to B2C business only or also B2B?

The concept of a customer journey applies to any situation with a supplier of goods or services and a recipient of those goods or services. In fact, given the numerous parties potentially involved in a B2B situation, the journey concept might prove more valuable in such instances. For example, gaining a deep understanding of the journey through a customer’s purchasing approval process might provide a B2B supplier with the tools needed to anticipate all the support needs during that purchasing process. Such proactive outreach makes the supplier a more trusted partner while also making the purchasing process smoother.

Do customer experience metrics change when you take a customer journey-centric approach?

They absolutely do! McKinsey & Co. studied this very question and came up with some astounding results. For example, McKinsey found that journey-centric approaches are 36% more correlated to customer satisfaction than a focus on touchpoints alone. Conversely, focusing on customer journeys show a 33% greater reduction in churn than concentrating on optimizing touchpoints. Clearly these are the kinds of results that drive not just customer experience, but also companies’ bottom lines.

What is customer effort and how is it measured?

The Customer Effort Score is a metric based on research done by the Corporate Executive Board. The score is derived from the answer to the question, “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” Many companies find it more effective to word the question differently, focusing instead on how easy it was to do business with the brand. Additionally, many companies add further questions to their surveying to focus on what type of effort customers had to put in to get their request handled. This could include the mental energy needed to read documentation, or the time required to wait in queue, or even the emotional effort to stifle frustration from unhelpful customer service representatives.

How would the service levels be managed in contact centers if the handle time metric is taken out of the equation?

First, a clarification: We don’t envision a world in which contact centers completely ignore handle time. Handle time will always be measured. We believe, however, that in many cases it reduces the customer experience to reward or punish agents based on handle time metrics alone.

For companies that have decided to remove handle time from their agent performance evaluations, there are other metrics that encourage the types of hands-on connection that drive excellent experiences. Online retailer Zappos measures total call time and not time per call. The idea is that Zappos wants to forge an emotional connection with the customer and quickly getting the customer off the phone hampers efforts to achieve that goal.

So, rather than measure the length of a specific call takes to handle, the company can measure the percentage of total working time that an agent spends on the phone with customers. Agents are expected to spend at least 80% of their time actually interacting with customers, but it doesn’t matter if that time comes from 10 calls or 100 calls.

In what common direction (if any) do you think routing strategies are moving? Skills-based, schedule-based, cost-based?

There is no one right answer to this issue. Even within a specific company there may be several different routing strategies that can be harmonized to provide the best experiences for customers. That said, among our customer base we are seeing increased interest in using schedule-based routing to drive better adherence. This strategy, however, rarely stands alone. For example, schedule-based routing can take into account skills in making the best routing decisions.

Seems to be a no-brainer, but the first point-of-contact, and perhaps the most important, is the company website. More a comment than a question, curious of your thoughts about this – the re-definition of the word “Contact”.

Yes, for many customers the Web would be the first port of call.  Being able to track a consumer’s actions on a website and then marrying that information with whatever context the company has about that customer can supply all of the data needed to proactively serve that customer. Genesys Proactive Engagement  provides exactly that type of tracking and decision-making functionality, check it out!

What’s the best plan to modernize the integration of mobile apps with the contact center?

Conceptually, we believe the most important factor for providing customer service via mobile apps is to get your customers to actually download and use the apps. Companies have already invested a lot of time, effort and money on both creating their mobile apps and marketing them to consumers. From there, the best way to reach the greatest number of consumers is to ‘customer service-enable’ existing apps rather than create bespoke service-focused apps. This approach allows mobile channels to be integrated into the existing cross-channel customer service strategy, and provides your mobile app user with a fast and seamless connection to customer service.

Our leading-edge customers have seamlessly integrated mobile customer care applications with ‘live’ support by adding a ‘Contact Us’ button inside their mobile apps to connect directly to an agent, who receives session information, customer history, preferences, location, and other contextual information for quick resolution. This button could also provide numerous options such as “Speak to an Agent,” “Chat with an Agent,” or “Schedule a Callback.” Companies can even provide actual wait-times from their queues to allow customers to choose the experience that best works with their schedules. Check out Genesys Mobile Engagement.

In case you missed it, here is the link to access the on demand webinar 5 Steps for Building a World-Class Contact Center in 2014.

Thanks for reading!


It’s The End Of Customer Service As We Know It

When you spend most of your waking hours advocating for consumers, it’s easy to lose your sense of perspective. Complaints pour in, often hundreds per day. I can’t help but feel like the customer-service apocalypse is imminent.

My resolution for 2014 is simple: Stop Servicemaggendon by putting what really matters in my consumer advocacy crosshairs and keep the discourse civil and fair.

What matters? Well, from my point of view, it’s obvious that we’re halfway down a long slide into the customer-service toilet, with only a little pipe to go before we’re flushed out to the sewer. How we approach this precipitous decline matters. It requires a clear-headed, well-reasoned and polite discussion — otherwise the problem could get worse.

In 2013, companies stayed busy segmenting their “best” customers with gimmicky loyalty programs while relegating the rest to smaller plane seats and rooms with fewer amenities. They merged into enormous, customer-hostile companies over the objections of watchdogs and their own customers. They outsourced more of their basic service functions and, in some cases, simply walked away from their obligations, both written and implied.

Even many of the card-carrying elite customers I sometimes poke fun at, bless ’em, found they no longer were being treated as pharaos, thanks to some incredibly unpopular loyalty program “reforms” last year.

It’s hard to understate how awful things have become for the average consumer. But let me offer an example from my own experience: I started the year with a promise to focus on positive customer-service stories. By the spring, I’d run out of material.

There were no stories left to tell.

Read the archives of my consumer advocacy site if you don’t believe me.

The takeaway: It’s more important than ever to focus on the big issues affecting all of us and to ask the big questions. What can we, as customers, do to improve service? How do we make it worth the companies’ while to treat all of us like humans?

When critics attack

Who could possibly have a problem with that?

Well, apart from the companies who abuse us and whose profits would be threatened, that would be the people who like the status quo -— the critics who regularly take little swipes at me online. They claim that far from helping consumers, I’m creating a class of uninformed and entitled customers. They say that if I just took a few minutes to understand the company’s perspective, I wouldn’t be so negative.

That’s ridiculous. My advocacy practice is all about helping consumers. The solutions I promote are practical: better service, fair prices, reasonable policies. I want my readers to be knowledgeable as much as I want companies to be responsible. When it takes an “expert” consultant to make sense of some of these bizarre and often unintelligible corporate policies, which are designed solely to separate you from your money, then I believe the problem is the company’s, not the customer’s.

Studying the rules isn’t the answer; changing them is.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss

All of which brings me to the subject of good manners. They’re our most effective weapon in the battle for better service. Manners separate us from the animals and from people who behave like animals.

I enjoy a lively back-and-forth debate with my colleagues and site commenters, both inside and outside the travel industry, but I insist on keeping it professional. We should criticize ideas, not people. We shouldn’t say anything online that we wouldn’t in person. And we definitely do unto others as we would have them do to us.

When manners go out the window, we become no better than the companies trying to rip us off.

In 2013, many of you wondered why I didn’t engage all of my opponents. That’s a perfectly reasonable question. Usually, it was because it took me away from my important mission of helping you, the consumer. Often, it was because there’s no point arguing with with folks who have already made up their mind. But increasingly, I refuse to respond because there’s absolutely nothing to be gained from fighting back against impolite adversaries who think the only way to win an argument is by mischaracterizing my eminently logical arguments and resorting to snarky, below-the-belt attacks and juvenile online call-outs.

So, listen up, critics: If you’re wondering why I ignore you — why I never quote you in my stories, never ask for your “expert” advice, and don’t even respond to your emails, tweets and Facebook posts — well, now you have your answer. I love the fact that you care about the same issues I cover, but maybe it’s time you read a different site.

These two issues — being aware of the big picture, and politeness — are essential to keeping corporate America honest in 2014. Now, more than ever.

If you lose sight of what matters, you’ll quickly find yourself deep in the weeds arguing with obscure bloggers, as companies laugh all the way to the bank. If you lose your manners, you hasten our descent into the septic system of customer service. Because bad manners beget more bad manners, and before long, we’ll all be lobbing dung at each other from the sewers.

Do you really want to go there?

After you’ve left a comment here, let’s continue the discussion on my consumer advocacy site or on Twitter, Facebook and Google. I also have a free newsletter and you’ll definitely want to pre-order my new, amazingly helpful and subversive book called How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle). Photo: Stokkete/Shutterstock

10 Ways to Rule at Customer Service — Hint: Watch out For Astroturfing

December 27, 2013

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I’ve been doing customer service in different capacities for the last 32 years, more or less… I joined IBM in ’76, became a Systems Engineer in ’82, did that into ’93. And have been a craigslist (CL) customer service rep (CSR) since 1995. It’s a tech customer service kind of thing.

This is a good time to mention that I do enough real customer service to keep my emotional investment in the CL and grassroots community, but my involvement in CL management ended well over ten years ago, and you need to look elsewhere for a CL spokesman. Getting perceived as spokesman, though, is a big pain in the butt, with no solution. That’s why I’ll direct you elsewhere for CL stuff.

As for my CSR stuff, here are 10 ways to rule at customer service:

1. Treat people like you want to be treated

2. Talk to people about what they need and want.

3. Act on what you hear from people.

4. Repeat #2 – #3 forever

5. Use your own product, AKA “eat your own dogfood.”

6. At least, customer service should be a senior position, probably C-level.

7. Ideally, CEO does customer service.

8. Focus groups are no substitute for getting out there and talking to real people.

9. Watch out for astroturfing, fake feedback.

10. See #1


Posted by:Craig N.

Netflix. Please Stop.

How a famously data-driven business fails at even basic e-mail marketing.

I love Netflix. I think their service is great, the price point is great and, having had someone hack into my account and watch some terrible films through it, I’ve enjoyed their renowned top-notch customer service first hand. I love it so much that I burned through every good TV show they had over the course of a year or so and then cancelled my contract, knowing that I’d return in the near future when their catalogue had expanded or evolved.

A few days ago, Netflix tried to reactivate me as a customer. The way they did this was so embarrassingly poor though that someone needs to tell them.

Must. Try. Harder.

Your data can tell you:

  • I used to be a subscriber
  • I was a subscriber for a long time
  • I watched both TV programmes and films
  • I did so, through multiple devices

What part of your customer intelligence data suggested that the key to re-engaging me was clarifying the price and the proposition of your service? Did all of my previous behaviour really suggest that I struggled to understand the core concept of what you offer? No. In fact no form of strategic thinking could lead to this conclusion, even if you didn’t have an Icelandic air-cooled data center full of data to prove the opposite of this to be true.

What it does do is communicate that you have no idea why I unsubscribed, even if that isn’t the case. I suspect that a business with such a huge emphasis on data and customer intelligence knows better and that you could probably ‘best guess’ me into a segment that you could do something useful with.

You could, if you wanted to, tell me exactly what new shows and films have been added to the service since the time that I left. You have the data to do this. You don’t even have to do it at a personal level — you just need to dump me into a ‘month this person left’ bucket and send out the same e-mail to everyone who unsubscribed in that month of that year.

To take it a step further, you could choose to not e-mail me at all unless one or some of the products that have been added actually match my taste profile — and only ever talk to people when it’s relevant to do so.

What you’re doing is just lazy. Lazy and damaging. Sending poor quality comms to your customers is a great way of encouraging brand attrition — and can be the difference between someone reactivating as a customer or going “You know what… let’s give a competing service like LOVEFiLM a try instead”.

If you’re going to be lazy. Just stop — doing nothing is much better than doing something this badly. Or… you know… you could try to inspire trust in your customers by putting the data you collect to good use.

Written by

I’m a Strategist, Gamer, Watcher, Reader & Escapist.


Why brilliant ideas get shot down

Use the 5% — 95% approach

It’s such a pity, isn’t it? So many wonderful ideas get shot down when they’re subjected to the ‘what if’ test.

This is a genuine source of frustration for many advertising agencies. Often they will mount creative campaigns that are greeted with enthusiasm by the marketers but once they’ve passed under the legal microscope, little remains of the original concept. Talk about frustration!

Just imagine a baker taking a gorgeous cherry pie out of the oven and then having to remove the cherries because 0.5% of people are allergic to them .

The comparison is a bit silly perhaps, but unfortunately this is a fair reflection of how decisions are often made in the corporate world.

Incidentally, many customer service ideas share the same fate so it’s not just advertising ideas that end up in the wastebasket. People get nervous when someone wants to launch a product with a money-back guarantee. ‘What if all our customers turn out to be dissatisfied?’. Companies that adhere to this philosophy have found that only a small minority of customers express their discontent. What’s more, most members of that minority have a right to be angry so they have a right to ask for their money back. On the upside, thanks to these justified complaints, your service team will benefit from an above average learning curve. In other words, only a minority of the minority is out to take advantage of great service ideas. Percentagewise you’re looking at 1 to 5%. Is that sufficient reason to abandon a brilliant idea?

Zappos is world-famous for its service philosophy. Their website claims they’re not really selling shoes but unparalleled service. One of the aspects of that service is the 365-day return policy. Most companies shy away from such extreme concepts because they are stuck in ‘what if everyone who buys our shoes starts sending them back’ thinking. Will some people take advantage of a service like the one offered by Zappos? Of course they will, but like before this is only a minority. Zappos calls the budget spent on dishonest consumers their marketing budget. The many positive effects generated by their service promise mitigate the cost of the dishonest minority.

McDonalds adheres to the same principle. If something’s missing from your order at the drive-in and you report it, they will correct their mistake no questions asked. In other words, if you’re looking for a free meal, all you have to do is call McDonalds and say they forgot a Big Mac with your last order and they’ll send you a voucher for a free Big Mac, just like that. Here, too, there’s a small minority that takes advantage of the service but should McDonalds really give up a great customer service principle because of the cheating few?

Why not add a new item to your marketing budget? I call it the ‘what if’ budget. If you’ve got this wonderful idea then don’t simply dismiss it because of the ‘what if’ factor. Instead, earmark 5% of your budget to deal with the problems caused by the ‘what if’ question. The positive effects created with 95% of consumers will be so much greater than if you stick to the safest route. ‘Safest’ equals ‘average’ and ‘boring’ and it doesn’t set you apart from the competition. The choice is yours.

If you agree with my ideas in this article, please push the recommend button. Thanks!

Written by

Author Conversation Manager & Conversation Company. Tweets about marketing, social media and conversations. Marketing Prof @Vlerick / speaker/Coach/Advisor.

View story at Medium.com

Published October 30, 2013


How customer service is marketing

And it could even be the most effective way



I have been running a webshop for the past few months. We have sold thousands of wooden sunglasses, and made around €150.000 in turnover. In just 4 months. Because of the huge demand in our sunglasses, we had huge troubles in keeping up with our stock, which led to long delays in delivery, and unsatisfactory clients.We have received 3000 mails, Twitter messages and Facebook messages/posts until today. Every single message was sent by someone who paid money for our products, and so was a valuable customer of us. We had huge troubles answering all those messages, which led to people ranting about us at social media. This must have costed us revenue, without a single doubt. Losses we could have avoided if we would have had a proper customer service.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase



Maybe even the best way for your webshop to grow is by viral marketing. That means that if someone buys a product from your shop, he tells a friend about it because he is really excited about your brand. That means that you want to make people excited about your brand. The single best way to do so is when you are in touch with them. But when are you in touch with them? Right! When they reach out for you with a question, you are in the ultimate occasion to make them feel really happy about your brand.


Customer service is the best way to make customers really excited about your brand


Imagine a customer sending a mention via Twitter to a company, because he has troubles making his order. Imagine two scenarios: In the first one, the company answers the mention after one and a half day. Customer already gave up hope, and he already made the order at a competitor of you. It took the customer service representative around 2 minutes answering the mention, but there’s no order.


Read more – > https://medium.com/lessons-learned/343546321dd8